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Thousands protest to save Berlin Wall

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Nearly 6,000 people crowded around part of the longest surviving stretch of the Berlin Wall on Sunday in protest of plans to knock down a section to make way for luxury homes. Work has now been stopped until March 18.

Police said at one point as many as 6,000 people stood under unusually blue skies and joined in the demonstration at the 1.3-kilometre stretch of Wall, known as the East Side Gallery.
The Berliner Zeitung newspaper reported on Monday morning that building contractor Maik Uwe Hinkel, the man behind the new project, has said he is prepared to enter into dialogue with the opponents.
Work has now been stopped until March 18, when talks with the Berlin senate and the local district authority have been planned.

Since 1990, the wall has become an outdoor gallery, being dress in  graffiti murals such as the famous “Fraternal Kiss” depicting Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev and his East German counterpart Erich Honecker.

The 3.6-metre high (11 feet) stretch offers a hotspot for tourists who want to catch a glimpse of the wall, and is always an essential visit for those looking to delve into the dark chapter of Berlin’s 28 year long separation.

The controversial plans for a residential development along the banks of the Spree river will also provide access to a planned bridge, and will require a 22-metre segment of the Wall to be dismantled.

This has sparked protest across Berlin, with several hundred demonstrators turning out on Friday as work to remove the Wall temporarily stopped mid-morning after a crane had removed a first panel.

The protest continued through to Sunday, with one banner reading, “Money is Making the Wall Fall!”. Other slogans directed at Berlin’s mayor Klaus Wowereit, such as “Wowereit, the Memorial Stays!” could be heard.

“I cannot and do not want to tolerate the little that remains standing of the Berlin Wall being damaged,” local Green party politician Hans-Christian Ströbele said.

“If I was (US President Barack) Obama I would say to Wowereit, ‘Keep Up This Wall’,” a well-known DJ, Dr Motte, founder of the techno Loveparade gathering, told the crowd, alluding to the famous challenge by former US president Ronald Reagan to the Soviet Union’s Mikhail Gorbachev to “Tear down this wall!” in 1987.

Builtin 1961, the Wall stretched 155 kilometres (96 miles) and divided Berlin until 1989, but today only remnants of it still stand (around three kilometres).

AFP/The Local/bk

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